Trial of Lamine Diack former IAAF President set to open in Paris

Lamine Diack,former International Association of Athletics Federations (IAAF) President

Disgraced former International Association of Athletics Federations (IAAF) President Lamine Diack could spend the remainder of his life in prison if convicted at a trial beginning in Paris tomorrow, where he stands accused of corruption, influence-trafficking and money laundering.

The 86-year-old, under house arrest in Paris since being arrested in November 2015, will be accused of covering up Russian doping cases in exchange for cash.

The case could have far-reaching consequences for sport and the International Olympic Committee (IOC), but will initially only focus on the claims relating to positive drugs test from Russian athletes.

Allegations about payments made to companies connected to Diack and his son Papa Massata – who will not appear at the trial because he refuses to be extradited from Senegal but could be convicted in absentia – to allegedly help Tokyo win the right to host the 2020 Olympic and Paralympic Games do not form part of this trial at the French Criminal Court. 

They could yet be aired later this year, although IOC members and other senior sports figures are likely to be watching the trial in the French capital closely.

Diack’s former advisor Habib Cisse and Gabriel Dolle – the former anti-doping chief at the IAAF, since been rebranded World Athletics – will also stand trial, which will be overseen by judge Rose-Marie Hunault.

The trial is scheduled to run for three days a week until January 23, and the charges carry a maximum sentence of 10 years’ prison.

Former Russian Athletics Federation President Valentin Balakhnichev and Alexei Melnikov, the former head Russian athletics distance coach, are also due to stand trial but have refused to cooperate with the long-running French investigation.

It began in November 2015 when Lamine Diack, IAAF President from 1999 to 2015, was placed under formal investigation on suspicion of corruption and money laundering. 

Investigations by the French Financial Prosecutor’s Office in 2018 also include allegations that Diack obtained Russian funds for political campaigns in Senegal, in exchange for the IAAF anti-doping arm covering up Russian offences.

The deal also facilitated negotiations with Russian sponsors and broadcasters before the World Athletics Championships in Moscow in 2013.

Papa Massata Diack was banned for life by the IAAF in January 2016, alongside Balakhnichev and Alexei Melnikov.

It came after he was charged in relation to payments totalling around £435,000 ($554,000/€496,000) made by Russia’s Liliya Shobukhova, the 2010 London Marathon winner and a three-time Chicago Marathon champion, to cover up doping violations.

According to Jeune Afrique, Lamine Diack is set to argue that he delayed, rather than covered-up, the doping tests to avoid negative publicity in the lead-up to the London 2012 Olympics and the 2013 World Athletics Championships in Moscow – an event heavily bankrolled by Russian money.

“We never covered up their cases,” Diack told Jeune Afrique. “We just asked for time to check their tests and make sure that, if there were sanctions, they take effect after these competitions.”

Other allegations levelled at Lamine Diack and Papa Massata Diack include that they were involved in corrupting the Olympic bid process by accepting cash to help influence the decisions to award the 2016 Games to Rio de Janeiro and 2020 to Tokyo.

Diack was a member of the IOC between 1999 and 2013 but stood down as an honorary member in 2015 following his arrest in France.


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